The Bears began their first real practices with the new coaching staff by rolling at a fast tempo on offense in particular.
This is not news; everybody talks about doing things fast. When a coaching staff announces that its plan will be to use as much of the play clock as possible, practice leisurely and meander to lines of scrimmage – that will be news. Mike Tice was all about quick out of huddles. Mike Martz wanted fast-everything. Dave Wannstedt once declared that the Bears would meet harder.
What was news on Tuesday was not the tempo, but the absence of errors, which in fact could reasonably have been expected to rise because of the tempo. People in a hurry make mistakes as details are missed, particularly when movements and timings are anything but second-nature.
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But there were few do-over’s. People weren’t just going fast; they were going fast to where they were supposed to be.
And the reasons for that were the real story of Day One of the Trestman Era. For example:
“One time I was starting to go somewhere else and Jay [Cutler] said, ‘Hey, no, get over there,’” new tight end Martellus Bennett told CSNChicago.com. “So he’s been in the [play]book and he knows where everybody’s going and it made it a lot easier on all of us.”
Bennett played last season with Eli Manning. He doesn't impress easily. But the first day together and the starting quarterback has the confidence of the franchise tight end based on preparation with a playbook that was only recently put together and is still in a molten state.
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Where Cutler and coaches so often fell back on the “it takes time with a new system” excuse for problems, even into the regular season, there was instead a sense of clarity.
And that may be the bigger story that began to unfold on Tuesday.
The Cutler-Trestman axis
Cutler didn’t get along with Josh McDaniels, part of why he’s no longer a Denver Bronco (probably why neither of them are still in Denver, come to think of it). Not getting along with McDaniels is not a character flaw, however. But Cutler also had issues with Ron Turner and Pep Hamilton in 2009; was openly at odds with Mike Martz by the end of 2011; and the Mike Tice Experience was a total disaster.
That can certainly still be the case in Chicago. Cutler liked Martz early on, too. But the Bears of 2013 will rotate about a Cutler-Trestman axis, and if that falters, Cutler’s and the Bears’ immediate futures are on the brink.
But at one point Tuesday, Cutler looked across the line and one of his reads in the secondary was ... Trestman.
“He gets involved, not only offensively but defensively,” Cutler said. “He makes sure everyone realizes that he’s all over the field. He’s watching everybody and he wants everyone to be.”
So there it was: new Bear (Bennett) finding confidence on day one that his quarterback is hyper-prepared, and the quarterback learning before this day that the preparation will be there for him to succeed.
And obviously the confidence thread runs through others. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod went from a fourth-round pick to two Pro Bowls with Aaron Kromer as his line coach. Now Kromer is his offensive coordinator. (Of course, Bushrod was protecting Drew Brees; Cutler hasn’t earned that kind of confidence yet.)
Not “getting” Trestman
Josh McCown has seen enough NFL offense to know some things. Twelve NFL seasons, 10 offensive coordinators, “unless you want to go nine coordinators and count Martz in Detroit and here as one,” McCown said, laughing.
But he wasn’t laughing at the perception that Trestman, because he is cerebral and possibly even more outwardly placid than either Lovie Smith or Dick Jauron, is dull or bland.
“It’s kind of sad when you start looking at humility as a bad thing,” McCown said, shaking his head. “I think that’s his deal. People think of strength as loud and whatever. But when there’s strength and humility together, there’s a lot of power there.
“Players don’t want all that nonsense. We’ve got enough cheerleaders. Don’t get me wrong; I love that.
“But it’s like with players. You’ve got to do it on the field. And at the end of the day, a coach can do all kinds of things, but it’s what you give your players that really gives them confidence. If they know you’ve worked as hard as they have to prepare for things we’re going to see, so when you as a player get into a game situation, you know that coach has you prepared, then you’ve got something.”
The Bears don’t “have” anything yet. But from Trestman through Cutler to Bennett and others, they believe they do.